Thursday, February 20, 2014

Smells Like Elementary Neoliberal Spirit

Is this guy for real?
During a press conference Wednesday night in Mexico, Obama said it was not accurate to claim Democrats opposed the Pacific trade deal, despite both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently voicing objection to legislation that would grant the president fast-track authority to negotiate the agreement. 
 “There are elements in my party that oppose this trade deal,” Obama said. “There are elements of my party that opposed the South Korea free trade agreement, the Colombia free trade agreement and the Panama free trade agreement, all of which we passed with Democratic votes.”
The president said he told Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Pena Nieto that if negotiations bore “a good agreement” that the Obama Administration would “get this passed.”
"Elements," for purposes of his latest propaganda offensive, are the stubborn mules who do not, for the record, agree with Obama lest it harm Democrats' re-election chances. The president's casting the ultra-powerful Reid and Pelosi as fringe-dwellers and back-benchers is a new one, though. This intra-party good cop/bad cop routine is getting mighty interesting, and also mighty transparent. Follow the money if you can.... all the way to November, when the theatrics can stop and all the players can get down to the real back room wheeling and dealing.

Besides, it takes an Element to know one. As Machiavelli observed, "Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society."  

Obama, meanwhile, did the political version of an In N Out Burger, fleeing Mexico within mere hours, lest the stench of Nafta waft its way into popular memory.

So, despite forecasts that TPP is dead in the water, watch out for a change in the weather. Those disparate hot and cold Elements always seem to have a way of converging at the last minute into a perfect storm of corporate ecstasy.

Valerie Long-Tweedie, Sardonicky contributor from Australia, sends along this ominous note from SumOfUs, the global anti-TPP group:
Tony Abbott's trade minister is about to sign a secret, global pact to allow corporations to sue the Australian government for billions -- just for passing laws to protect our health or the environment.
The secret meeting in Singapore is happening next week. Tony Abbott wants us to believe the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is all about getting a better deal for ordinary Australians. But the truth is that it could end up being one of the biggest corporate power grabs in a generation.
Abbott and his cronies are refusing to make the deal public (although corporate lobbyists seem to be getting the inside track) -- making it hard to know just what's in the TPP. But leaks so far indicate this is bad news. That’s why Tony Abbott wants it to stay confidential -- he’d prefer to quietly sign away our rights without a big fuss.
Valerie smells a rat and a power play:
  It looks like the TPP is going ahead with or without being fast tracked through Congress. I thought it was too good to be true that it had stalled and was written off as dead. I have a feeling that those pushing the TPP will now go overseas, get signatories and then come back to Congress and say, "If the U.S. doesn't sign, we will be left out in the cold!" There is some being written about it in the Australian newspapers but Australians are a passive population. Their government has been taking good care of them since the 70's and they just assume their government will continue to work in their best interests - and that the minerals that are being mined at an alarming rate to pay for the safety net will last forever. I suspect that when the minerals start to run out, the government will get mean and ugly - just as it has in the States - and will make even more deals with the devil corporations.
I can see it now.... or more accurately, they can see it now, and we proles will be allowed to see it next fall, after it's already a done deal. I agree with Valerie's prediction. The words will be all too familiar: We couldn't leave poor President Obama twisting, twisting in the wind as the whole world laughed at his lame-duck ineptitude. If Singapore could do it, if the Australians caved, why can't the U S of A? Nobody likes a spoil-sport. Don't let a few low-wage American jobs be the enemy of the glorious trickle-down corporate coup! Corporations are people my friend, and Comcast is your Daddy.

Meanwhile, the charm offensive continues. U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman has been furiously making the rounds of the various "liberal" think tanks and interest groups, trying to herd the cattle into Obama's veal pen. So far, anyway, they're resisting such ripe Froman bullshit as:
"As a candidate for president, then-Senator Obama said he would renegotiate NAFTA, put labor and environmental standards at the core of trade agreements and make those standards enforceable like any commercial commitment. That’s exactly what we’re doing in TPP."
Um... environmental standards would actually be taking a huge hit from the Obama administration, judging from the release last month of the environmental chapter of the secret proposed pact. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange calls it "noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in 'environmental' goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise....The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism."

And, of course, continue following the money. On the heels of the leaked anti-environment, anti-indigenous people offal in the document comes news that Obama's chief TPP negotiators have been the recipients of much largesse from the cabal of too big to fail/jail banks.

Froman himself, according to investigative journalist Lee Fang, raked in over $4 million in bonus exit payments from Citigroup as he left to work for the Obama administration. Paying employees who leave the private sector to work for the government is standard big business practice. And it's also standard big business practice for Froman and other recipients of legal bribes to humble-brag about what a huge proportion of the booty they're donating to the charities of their choice. Not for tax deducting purposes, mind you. It's for the public relations. Under the terms of the TPP, Citigroup would profit big-time, joining other multinationals in being able to sue sovereign governments for make-believe losses should actual citizens try to get in the way of said profits and human capital extraction.

So, the next time somebody tells you the TPP is dead, don't believe it for a minute. It is, rather, undead. Like a zombie, TPP will keep walking the earth, destroying everything in its path unless we, its intended victims, stay vigilant and keep it at bay. Public awareness and public engagement are our weapons against the scourge of unfettered capitalism.

Follow the money, follow the stench, and let the sunshine in.


The Black Swan said...

I think it's important to understand just how much antipathy the wealthy have towards the rest of humanity. So when they sign these deals, and make these arrangements, we are never even thought about it. We are just things, inconvenient things, hopefully to be replaced by robots. Go read Howard Zinn, read The Invention of Capitalism, look at the words and actions of the Global kleptocracy. We are a hindrance towards their advancement.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Will said...

I just realized today is the late Kurt Cobain's birthday. So this post's title is either a happy coincidence or Karen's a Nirvana fan. Yay!

P.S. Here's an short interview set to animation that really captures the sweet, kind essence of the man. It's been 20 years since his suicide & I still miss him terribly.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I wish I could impress on people just how important this "Free" trade agreement is to defeat. It will be Obama's worst legacy - just as deregulation of banking was Clinton's.

It will allow unfettered damage to the environment. Any environmental or fair labor laws in a signatory's country that get in the way of corporate profits will be challenged in a kangaroo court set up by the trade pact.

Labeling food as non-GMO or locally grown or even organically grown will no longer be allowed because they cut into the potential profits of corporations wanting to grow polluted food in third world countries farmed by exploited labor.

There will be even less regulation on the financial industry which will allow even more unsound financial "products" to be sold. Banks will have even less liability for the faulty products they sell. Forget, Dodd-Frank - as weak as it is - it will be a thing of the past.

If you are downloading stuff from the Internet, stop now, because the penalties are going to be severe and if approved, will be retroactive.

Patents on pharmaceuticals will be extended to the point that many life saving drugs will be virtually obsolete before generic versions are available. Doctors without Borders reports that even pharmaceuticals which are already on the market can be slighting changed and have their patents extended another 20 years. Countries like Canada and Australia will be forced to sing to the tune of the pharmaceutical corporations and charge American prices (which most surely will go up in price with little competition from generics) for drugs sold in their countries.

There isn't a part of our lives that won't be completely controlled by one or many multi-national corporations. Our governments which were to protect and represent the majority of the people in the signatory countries will be toothless if they want to stop them.

People need to wake up and take this trade pact seriously. It is being negotiated in secret for a reason - even members of Congress aren't privy to what is in the pact - let along the rest of us. And don't go looking to the New York Times for groundbreaking journalism on this subject - the Times has endorsed it, even though it hasn't read it.